JORDAN, Minn. -- At 82 years old, Jim Miller is six decades too old for the Make-A-Wish program that brings joy to children with life-threatening medical conditions.
Thanks to a Minnesota-based senior care company, the Alzheimer's patient from the Twin Cities has had his wish granted anyway.
"It's amazing, he's happy, very happy," said Miller's daughter Jamie McDermeit as she watched her father staring skyward at a radio controlled airplane, his hands on the controls. "Yeah, I'm getting the feel of it again," he said intently.
Miller was a founding member of the Twin Cities Radio Controllers club in Jordan where he built and flew planes for nearly 50 years, until the early symptoms of his Alzheimer's disease forced him to give up his passion several years ago.
Little matter that Jim was now flying with an assist from his son-in-law on another set of controls: he was back, and his family and fellow club members applauded as he tracked his plane across the sky.
It's exactly the type of scene Joel Theisen envisioned when the founder and CEO of AgeWell Home Care came up with the idea for "AgeWell Wishes" four years ago.
"We said, we've got to do more with these folks, we've got to go beyond what people expect and really get them back to their passions," said Theisen.
With assists from local companies, individuals and sports teams, AgeWell has granted roughly 150 wishes to its senior clients - including Trudie McFarland. As she neared her 105th birthday, McFarland mentioned that she had never realizing her lifelong dream of visiting China. So AgeWell organized a China-themed birthday party at McFarland's senior care facility in New Brighton.
Attendees cheered as she deftly handled a set of chopsticks. "It's more excitement than I ever can remember ever I've had," beamed McFarland.
Theisen has a number of other favorite wish recipients, like Walter Anderson, who grew up during the Great Depression. As a boy he'd always wanted a toy train, but his parents were too poor to buy him one. "We presented him with this train and the guy just broke down crying and sobbing," said Theisen.
Joyce Gelfman asked for one more trip to the theatre, where she and Theisen together saw "The Nutcracker."
John Dickerson wished to attend a Twins game. "You know that guys alive," said Theisen has he help a photo of Dickerson, with a twinkle in his eye, holding up a baseball.
Ruth Thompson was granted the simplest of wishes. She told a care provider at AgeWell, "I'd just like to get in the country and have the wind blow in my hair," recalls Theisen. Not long after was heading out for a drive in the passenger seat of a yellow Volkswagen Beatle.
When the time came to make her wish, Lois Reller dreamed of an afternoon of ballroom dancing. It was the sort of outing the 85-year-old cherished before her broken hip and the passing of two husbands.
"It's just fun to see that glow," said her daughter Lynnae Finseth as Lois traded dances with several gentlemen at Summit Place Senior Campus in Eden Prairie. She giggling a bit when one astute partner observed, "You're dressed so pretty."
For what more could anyone wish?
RELATED: AgeWell's website
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